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Alliance is ready to lead Walworth County development

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Fred D. Burkhardt
October 29, 2007

How does development occur in a county with numerous jurisdictions issuing building permits, varying levels of inspection, most land-use decisions resting with conditional-use permits and differing levels of interest in economic development?


The old but accurate saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” is as true for economic development as it is for life in general. It is particularly true when the mission is to develop family-supporting jobs, diversify and expand the tax base, improve cash flow for county and local government, and protect fundamental values of agricultural land and quality of life.


The Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) applauds the study sponsored by Keefe Real Estate, Johnson Bank and Bliss Communications. Of the 10 recommendations, the first and foremost goal is to develop and implement a comprehensive economic development plan for Walworth County. Many of the remaining recommendations will fall into place when such a plan is developed.


WCEDA sees this goal as an opportunity to start a countywide inclusive process that establishes priorities and implements a truly meaningful development plan.


As the only countywide economic development and business organization in Walworth County, WCEDA proposes to bring the wide range of entities to the table, clearly define objectives and identify opportunities for development. This could involve defining the types of development desired/needed, setting criteria for evaluating proposed projects, establishing minimum standards for development, jobs, etc., and streamlining the permitting process to include developing “pre-certified” sites for business and industry.


Are these concepts different from what is present now? Some yes, and others no. The upside of such planning is that it not only defines where, how and under what conditions development can take place, it also clearly identifies and protects valuable agricultural and scenic land where development would not be appropriate.


Walworth County is rich in history, culture and opportunity. This pool of precious resources should not be placed at risk by ad hoc development projects, and Smart Growth takes us only so far.


As the costs for public services and safety increase, taxes on homes must be kept in check. Meeting those increasing costs requires diversification of the tax base. Thus, it is vital to bring undeveloped or underdeveloped, properly zoned land into the tax base. This will increase government’s revenue stream from sources other than taxes on homes.


The pressure to develop will not go away. The opportunities for quality, well-planned development are present and must be maximized to benefit the entire county.


A comprehensive economic development plan, coupled with the county’s Smart Growth initiative, goes a long way toward assuring the county of quality growth where it is needed and wanted.


WCEDA’s role is to spearhead the initiative through an inclusive public process that will result in a workable economic development plan and maximize economic returns on investments.


Fred D. Burkhardt is executive vice president of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance; phone (262) 741-8528 or (262) 741-8530; e-mail fred.burkhardt@walworthbusiness.com.



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